Suicide should be considered a public health emergency in the UK, with 125 lives lost every week. Despite this, mental health is both hard to talk about and hard to understand. An internal, personal struggle for millions of people. Many of whom fight it in silence. There is also a stigma around issues like anxiety and depression that make them feel like weaknesses. Things to be hidden and dealt with in private.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) exists to unite the UK against suicide, providing support to those experiencing suicidal feelings as well as the people around them.
With this in mind, we wanted to raise awareness of CALM and the service it provides, challenge negative perceptions of mental health, and encourage those in need to seek support. However, the truth is that mental health issues are indiscriminate. Talking about them, and breaking the stigma, takes courage. Confronting them takes strength.
We had to flip the narrative to position talking about mental health as a signal of strength, not weakness. We needed to do this in contexts that were known for people suffering in silence.
What we did
In sports, where physical health is the focus, mental health takes a back seat.
Tyson Fury, a huge powerhouse of a man, is unusual in his openness about struggles with mental health, including attempts to take his own life. In the 12th and final round of his 2018 fight against Deontay Wilder, Fury was knocked to the floor by two brutal hits but somehow got to his feet, ready to fight again. Removing Wilder and all sound from the footage gave us a perfect metaphor for the hidden battles Fury has fought.
Conventional wisdom might be to show the film in sports contexts. However, we decided to focus on placements that were most likely to reach those suffering in their own silence. Love Island allowed us to do just that – the most talked about show on TV, traditionally focussed on physical appearance. But sadly, three Love Island contestants had previously died by suicide, as well as presenter Caroline Flack.
With help from ITV, our ad spot was introduced by ITV2 with a voiceover from the broadcaster, explaining that you don’t have to fight alone. We maintained our presence around the show through the ITV hub.
At the same time, we ran across large format digital screens in National Rail stations throughout the UK. Rail stations are places where people are exposed to stories of suicide, in real-time, all too often. We wanted to help them pause for thought, by pulling the problem out into the open. And the strength of our visual lent itself perfectly to silent big-screen formats.
CALM has done a lot of impactful work over the years, but this campaign drove the organisation’s best-ever results.
Within seconds of the ad appearing on TV, people started talking about mental health and CALM. CALM’s share of attention increased from 27% to 32%. Total monthly website users increased by 47%, earned social reach up by 150%, and social engagement up by 358%.
Most importantly, calls to the suicide helpline rose 74% year-on-year.